Naomi says there wasn’t a real reason for getting lambs but she says now they bring her so much joy. (Marisca Bakker photo)

Naomi says there wasn’t a real reason for getting lambs but she says now they bring her so much joy. (Marisca Bakker photo)

Using lavender to cultivate a calmer life

Naomi Nyuli finds peace in growing her own lavendar and raising lambs

Naomi Nyuli was working in advertising and marketing for an agency in downtown Toronto and was itching to get out of the rat race and the busy city. So, she started her own content company and was working on big projects for corporate websites and media with very demanding clients and deadlines. But a different way of living was still on her mind.

She had always wanted to be in the mountains and a life of adventure was calling, so she took the leap of faith and moved to Terrace when she was 34. She got a job as the director of tourism and got to know a lot of people in the city.

“That was really neat to kind of get to know our community through that lens,” she said.

However, she got tired of working for a board of directors and went back out on her own, knowing she enjoyed the flexibility and freedom of being her own boss.

From there though, she ended up taking a position with the Regional District of Kitimat Stikine (RDKS) as their emergency support services director, going into a totally new field. She was in that position when the 2018 wildfire season hit.

“Telegraph Creek was evacuating a lot of communities and a lot of people were coming to Terrace because the air quality was a lot better,” she said. “So we were in full-on response mode. It was just, it was super, super stressful. I remember that and sustained stress for a long period of time. So while all of that was happening, I was just getting more and more burnt out.”

After that, she said the administration changed at the RDKS and she lost her job after seven years.

She was shocked.

“Oh, my God, what am I going to do? And I really had to take a break for a long time to kind of find myself again, because you just get wrapped up in that identity. And then I’m going ‘well… who am I, what is my purpose? What is your heart’s desire? And at 46 years old!”

She and her husband had recently acquired some lambs and acreage near Driftwood, which was a blank slate. There was no rhyme or reason for getting lambs, they wanted farm status and sheep seemed easier than goats.

“I just really love the playfulness and the demeanors of these little lambs that just kind of bring a little bit of joy to your day.”

She said it was a real turning point in her life. And then her husband gave her some lavender seeds. From there a new passion grew.

“I didn’t know anything about farming or lavender. I mean, really … when we started this farm, we didn’t know anything about raising lambs or lambing season or any of that. So we’ve just been learning. But I threw those [lavendar] seedlings in and then they kind of took off. And I was, like, wow, I had this harvest.”

As a yoga instructor, she knows the calming effects of lavender and using it in practice. She thought about making some lavender eye pillows because it is nice to end a yoga session with one. She decided to sell them to her friends through Facebook but before she knew it, everyone and their uncle wanted one. She had to teach herself how to sew first.

“This is a turn of events,” she explained. “I’m sewing. But what was really cool was … I’m using my hands. I’m being creative. I’m using something that I grew myself. And that was kind of where it all started.”

Then COVID-19 hit. She was previously teaching yoga and hosting yoga and horseback riding retreats, which were halted due to the pandemic.

The provincial government launched a program to help small businesses move online, so Naomi took advantage but she wasn’t quite sure about her lavender business yet. It came to her one day to call it Little Lambs and Lavender and she would create a website, with help from a grant and sell her eye pillows online and maybe expand her products. Brianne from Bulkley Valley Hive and Honey helped her launch her first set of products that included lavender-based lotions and soaps.

Naomi ended up going back to Ontario to take a natural formulation course and learn about making different products and harvesting essential oils. The course gave her a boost of confidence.

“Because I’ve always been interested in beauty and skincare. And now with this land, it’s like, well beyond the lambs. What can we do to boost farm status?”

She started a lavender garden on one side of the property she thought had good drainage and the right sun but ended up losing almost half of her harvest from the first winter.

“I just have to not beat myself up when things don’t go as planned because they never do, right? And this whole business was just kind of, like, once I relaxed into something, I kind of let go of my past job and just the feelings there and just kind of opened myself up to learning.”

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Growing lavender in the north isn’t easy and Naomi thinks she might be one of the only farmers brave enough to try. She is learning the science behind the soil and using the right elements and techniques. She has now started a new garden in a different location. She has two long, elevated, rows, one with mulch and one without to see what works better. It isn’t easy and there is a large learning curve, but Naomi says she has found her zen.

She realizes the irony of finding a new calming passion with something that is literally so calming.

This year, she has also set up a booth at the Bulkley Valley Farmers Market to sell her lavender-based products.

“I wake up every morning and … I just feel so grateful for what we built. I just feel really, really blessed to be here in the North. And now, to be embraced by the community through the farmers market and I’m just starting to kind of make more connections in that way. So, I really feel lucky to be doing something creative.”

She has a vision to build a studio on her property and possibly a store. She doesn’t currently have a distiller so she isn’t making essential oils yet, but that could be something to look forward to in the future.

She also intends to keep hosting yoga and horseback riding retreats.

But for right now, she is relishing in her newfound happiness.


@MariscaDekkema
marisca.bakker@interior-news.com

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Naomi checks on one of her two new rows of lavender. (Marisca Bakker photo)

Naomi checks on one of her two new rows of lavender. (Marisca Bakker photo)

Good guard dog. (Marisca Bakker photo)

Good guard dog. (Marisca Bakker photo)

(Marisca Bakker photo)